Friday, February 27, 2009

very berry


Probably the easiest and quickest winter crisp ever. I prepared a batch of my favorite crisp topping (oats, flour, butter, some chopped nuts, a pinch of salt, granola if you have it on hand is a nice addition) and set it aside. Turned the oven onto 350F and buttered a baking dish and mixed a packet each of frozen raspberries, blueberries, strawberries and peaches with a bit of sugar to take off the edge and dumped them into the baking dish. Crumbled crisp topping on top and popped in the oven for a hour. I probably would have done well to toss the peaches in a bit of flour before mixing with the berries since it was pretty juicy. But I have to say, everyone seemed to be sopping up the juices. Yum. The whole thing took me under 10 min. to pull together and it cooked while we ate dinner.

Winner of the V-Day book giveaway....

Thank you to everyone that took part in the Valentine's Day book giveaway! I loved reading your stories. The winner of the cookbook goes to mcogdil - how on earth was I to keep you racking up library fines for a book you already love so much :)
Send me a DM on twitter so that I can get the book out to you (and you can return yours to the library - LOL).
Cheers! Promise to let me know when you try those sticky buns.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Thursday Thoughts

Quote of the Week:

"If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer."

Henry David Thoreau

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

reuse, repurpose, recycle

A few weeks ago, after much convincing, and cajoling along with promises that if we got a bigger bed, it wouldn't mean less time cuddling, I relented and agreed that it was time we upgrade our 10 year old bed to a new king size. And I'm here to tell you that it is A-Mazing! It's like we are on vacation every day in a fancy hotel (minus the part where someone else changes the sheets and makes your bed every day). It feels so plush, so utterly luxurious. And there's no more fighting for foot space - even the dog's happier now that she isn't getting accidentally shoved in the middle of the night. I can't believe I waited this long.

At any rate, after the new bed purchase we were a bit low on cash but had no bedding that fit, so I set about seeing what I could do with our old bedding. Low and behold, it turns out that a queen sized flat sheet is just about the same dimensions as a king duvet and as we hardly use our flat sheets since we sleep with duvets almost all year round, they are in almost-new condition, I got the bright idea of using a flat sheet topped with some pretty fabric from Anna Maria Horner to make us new bedding!

I think came out pretty well and cost me nothing since I used fabric that I already owned. I even added fabric edging to a pair of white pillow cases I owned, to make matching pillow, see below!

Seems like someone is a fan...

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Lan Zhou Handmade Noodle - C-town dumpling face-off!

Having lived on the cusp of Chinatown and the Lower East Side for 3+ years now, my husband and I frequent the many great dumpling stores in the area regularly. In fact, I think it's safe to say that Steve survived law school and the Bar exam due in no small part to the daily lunch of "2 orders #1" at North Dumpling on Essex. That's 10 juicy, meaty pork and chive dumplings for two bucks! I like Vanessa's but preferred it before the expansion and all the media hype. At any rate, we were feeling pretty confident that we'd tried a lot of the great dumpling places around and settled on our favorite.

So it was with some degree of surprise (and perhaps a degree of embarrassment) that I have to admit I had no idea I was living literally 1/2 a block from possibly one of the best dumpling restaurants this side of China. My friend, Justcooknyc, turned me onto the place and I"m forever indebted. It is a tiny blink-and-you'll-miss-it whole in the wall where they make noodles by hand all day long in the back of the restaurant. The dough makes a HUGE slapping noise on the stainless steel table as they stretch it out to make the noodles, which makes it a bit tough to carry on a conversation, but I found it hard to talk anyway, as I was totally hypnotized watching the noodles get made. Since my first trip about a week ago, I've now been back 5 times, and it's awesome every time.

The dumplings at Lan Zhou is definitely of the thinner variety, which I really like. If you lean towards the slightly thicker, toothsome dumpling style, I'd recommend North Dumpling. But, hey, given that they are about 30 meters from one another and you'd only be dropping one or two dollars, I say come hungry and try them both!

A quick word on the noodle soups: the noodles are fantastic. However, in my opinion the broth is a bit over salted and a bit murky tasting, kind of like they don't skim it enough in the broth making phase. The star anise flavor is quite pronounced, which I like, but the broth is lacking the clarity and clean flavors that I love in a well made noodle soup.

Lan Zhou Handmade Noodles - 144 E Broadway(between East Broadway & Pike St) New York, NY 10002(212) 566-6933

North Dumpling - 27 Essex St, New York, NY 10002 (212) 529-2700 - home of the "ugly dumpling" according to Serious Eats and Jean Trang!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Watch Paula Deen's Pants Fall Down at South Beach

I just found this link on Serious Eats' twitter feed - not for the faint of heart, but it's pretty funny. Paula's pants fall off during a presentation at South Beach Food & Wine Festival.

frenchie madness at thomkins sq. park

It seems all of a sudden everywhere I turn, there are more and more frenchies popping up around NYC. Last week at the dog run, there were 8, this week 7 -and there were only 7 dogs in the small dog run! I managed to catch a photo of the three brindle and white frenchies all playing together.

homemade bread goodness

Like everyone else in the online world it seems I, too, am a huge fan of Jim Lahey's no-knead bread recipe that took the online world by storm about a year ago. I made the loaf above over the weekend. It doesn't seem to matter how many times I make this, I'm always amazed at how good the bread comes out, for how little effort I put in. Super crust, and a wonderful, chewy interior - the kind it always used to seem impossible to create at home. The only bit I don't like is the long waiting time - which is something I'm pretty awful at. But seriously, if you don't live near a good bakery, or even if you do, this such a ridiculously great way to make an artisanal quality loaf of bread at home, you'd be crazy not to try it at least once.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Thursday Thoughts

Quote of the Week:

"The profession of book writing makes horse racing see like a solid, stable business"

- John Ernest Steinbeck

Friday, February 13, 2009

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Bread - mission accomplished

So here are the final results of my attempt at bread baking! While the photo looks kind of funny (that's sugar on the top, in case you were wondering), the taste was really good! Lots of chocolate chips in each bite. It definitely has a bread taste to it, more like a savory bread that has sweet chocolate in it. I spread a slice with butter and it was totally delicious. It was also pretty fantastic for breakfast the next day. Who can argue with chocolate for breakfast.

Valentine's Day Book Giveaway!

In honor of Valentine's Day, I'm doing a giveaway of one of my favorite book of sweet treats (Red Velvet Cake recipe from the book to follow momentarily). To enter for a chance to win, post a comment and share your favorite Valentine's Day memory.

My all-time favorite Red Velvet Cake recipe

Recipe and photo reprinted with permission from The Sweeter Side of Amy's Bread by Amy Scherber and Toy Dupree (Wiley, 2008)

To win this book - leave a comment sharing your favorite Valentine's Day memory.

Amy’s Bread Red Velvet Cake
Yield: one 9-inch double-layer cake Equipment: two 9 x 2-inch round cake pans

This is our version of the dramatic red and white cake that is much loved and familiar to anyone who was raised or has lived in the southern United States. When someone asks us to describe how it tastes, we can only say, “It tastes like red velvet cake.” It has its own very unique flavor. It doesn’t taste at all like chocolate, though it does have a little bit of cocoa in it. We use Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting to finish this cake. At the bakery we love to dress this cake up for holidays.

We feature it at Christmas by decorating the snow white frosting with green rolled fondant holly leaves, with the holly berries piped on in red frosting. For Valentine’s Day we bake thinner layers in a sheet pan and cut out heart shapes with a 5-inch cookie cutter. Then, using a pastry bag with a star tip, we pipe decorative concentric outlines of either pink or white frosting around the top of the heart until it’s completely covered with a frilly blanket. For the Fourth of July, we sprinkle it generously with confetti made of little red, white, and blue stars.

Sour cream, full fat 120 4.23 1/2 cup
Valrhona cocoa powder 12 0.42 2 tablespoons
Baking soda 1 teaspoon 1 teaspoon 1 teaspoon
Christmas Red food coloring 16 0.56 1 tablespoon
Boiling water 226 8 1 cup
Cake flour, sifted 342 12.10 3 cups
Kosher salt 1/2 teaspoon 1/2 teaspoon 1/2 teaspoon
Baking powder 1 1/2 teaspoons 11/2 teaspoons 11/2 teaspoons
Eggs 250 8.82 5 large
Vanilla extract 11/2 teaspoons 11/2 teaspoons 11/2 teaspoons
Unsalted butter, slightly softened 170 6 3/4cup
Dark brown sugar 542 19.12 21/2 cups, firmly packed
Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting 1 recipe (see below)

1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease the cake pans. Line the bottoms with rounds of baking parchment then dust them lightly with cocoa powder or flour. Shake out the excess. Or use Baker’s Joy baking spray that contains both oil and flour so you don’t have to flour the pan. With Baker’s Joy, put the parchment liner in after you spray the pan.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the sour cream, cocoa, baking soda, and food color until it is a smooth paste. Very gradually add the boiling water, whisking until it is fully incorporated. In another bowl, combine the cake flour, salt, and baking powder and whisk them gently for even distribution. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the eggs and vanilla.

3. Using an electric mixer, with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and brown sugar on medium speed until it is light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg mixture gradually, mixing well after each addition, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl often.

4. Lower the mixing speed to medium-low and add the fl our to the butter in 3 parts, alternating with the liquid mixture, also in 3 parts, beginning with the flour and ending with the liquid. Mix until it is evenly incorporated. There should not be any lumps or dry pockets of flour remaining. This is a fairly thin cake batter, so there is not much danger of overmixing it, but don’t go above medium-high speed.

5. Divide the batter equally between the 2 prepared cake pans. Weighing the batter into the pans is the most accurate way to do this. This ensures that both layers will be uniform in size and will finish baking at the same time. You’ll have approximately 820 g/29 oz. of batter per pan. The pans should be about ½ full. Place the pans on the center rack in the preheated oven. Bake them for about 35 minutes or until the cake is almost ready to pull away from the side of the pan and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out with a few moist crumbs. Rotate the layers carefully from front to back after 20 minutes, for even baking.

6. Cool the pans on a rack for 10 minutes, then invert them onto a wire rack that has been sprayed with cooking spray and lift off the pans. To prevent cracking, carefully right each layer so the top side is up and the parchment-lined bottom is down. Cool them completely on the rack. Before frosting, be sure to remove the parchment from the bottom of each layer. While the cake layers are cooling, prepare the frosting.

To assemble the cake:

7. Place one layer, top side down, on a flat serving plate. Cut several 4-inch-wide strips of parchment or waxed paper to slide under the edge of the layer to keep the plate clean. Using a thin metal spatula, spread the top of this cake round with a ½- inch-thick layer of frosting, leaving a ¼-inch unfrosted border around the edge. Place the second layer top side up on the first, aligning the layers evenly. Spread a generous layer of frosting around the sides of the cake, rotating the plate as you work so you’re not reaching around the cake to frost the other side. Try not to let any loose crumbs get caught in the frosting. If you can, let the frosting extend about ¼ inch above the top of the cake.

8. Starting in the center of the cake, cover the top with a generous layer of frosting, taking it all the way to the edge and merging it with the frosting on the sides. Try to use a forward-moving, circular motion, not a back-and-forth motion, to avoid lifting the top skin of the cake. Rotate the plate as necessary. Use the spatula or a spoon to make decorative swirls. Slide the pieces of parchment paper out from under the edge of the cake and discard them. Store the cake at room temperature, preferably under a cake dome, for up to 3 days.

If you can’t find Valrhona cocoa powder, try another premium-quality brand, but be sure to use the volume measurement of 2 tablespoons, not the weight. Cocoa powder brands vary dramatically by weight. When we weighed 5 tablespoons of three different brands, the weights we got were 12 g, 20 g, and 30 g, so the safest thing to do is to use the tablespoon measurement for anything other than Valrhona cocoa. This is one of the few times we recommend using a volume measurement instead of a weight.

Be sure to use full-fat sour cream in this recipe, not lowfat or nonfat. Fat is a flavor carrier. Whenever naturally occurring fat is removed from an ingredient, much of the ingredient’s flavor is also removed. Fat also is a key factor in the texture of baked goods.

In the bakery, we buy gallons of Christmas Red food coloring. We chose this particular red because the baked cake comes out a nice, dark red color instead of the pale orangey-red that often occurs with other shades of red food coloring. In the Ingredients and Equipment section at the back of this book.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting
Yield: enough to fill and finish one 9-inch two-layer cake

This elegant buttercream is the frosting we chose for our Red Velvet Cake (see page 165) because it reminds Toy of the fluffy white frosting on the Red Velvet Cake she ate as a child. The small amount of shortening in this recipe is just enough to stabilize the frosting so it can be left at room temperature indefinitely without melting. It’s not as sweet as a traditional confectioner’s sugar buttercream, and it has a softer, smoother texture that won’t develop a thin sugar crust. This smooth texture makes it a perfect frosting to use with a pastry bag and tip to pipe swirls on top of cupcakes or Red Velvet Cake hearts.

Unsalted butter, slightly softened 312 11 1⅜ cups
Shortening 84 3 ⅓ cup + 1 tablespoon
Sugar 300 10.58 1½ cups
Egg whites 150 5.30 From 5 large eggs
Light corn syrup 40 1.40 2 tablespoons
Kosher salt ¼ teaspoon ¼ teaspoon ¼ teaspoon
Vanilla extract 1¼ teaspoons 1¼ teaspoons 1¼ teaspoons

1. In a mixing bowl, using an electric mixer with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and shortening together for 1 to 2 minutes, until they are light in color and texture but not too soft. Scrape this mixture into a different bowl and set it aside to use later. Clean the mixing bowl to use for the egg whites.
2. Combine the sugar, egg whites, corn syrup, and salt in the top pan of a double boiler. Heat over simmering water, stirring frequently, until the sugar granules have dissolved and the temperature on a food thermometer registers 140ºF. Transfer the whites to the clean mixing bowl. Using an electric mixer with a whip attachment, whip the whites on medium to medium-high speed until the mixing bowl feels just cool to the touch, 10 to 12 minutes. The mixture should be white and fluffy and very thick.

3. Add the butter mixture and the vanilla to the egg white mixture and whip again, on medium speed, until the frosting has a smooth, creamy, spreadable texture, almost like stiff whipped cream, 1 to 2 minutes.
4. The frosting can be used immediately or stored in an airtight container at room temperature, but it should be used within 3 days. You may have to stir it briskly to re-fluff it if it’s been sitting for a long time

You will need to have a candy thermometer or a digital kitchen thermometer to measure the temperature of the egg whites and sugar as they’re being heated.


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Thursday Thoughts

Quote of the Week:

"The power that created the poodle, the platypus and people has an integrated sense of both comedy and tragedy".

-James Grover Thurber

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

French kisses at Thompkins Square Park

The weather was incredible this weekend, the sun was shining and it was the warmest its been in months. Judging by the dog run, we weren't the only ones who thought a romp in the park was a good idea. There were 8 french bulldogs in the small dog run on Sunday - crazy! - but Miss Crumpet only had eyes for one ; )
Lollygagging around...
Who said the English and the French couldn't get along!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Crumpet's many coats of different colors - part 1

Isn't part of the joy of getting a new puppy that you get to play dress up and make lots of cute outfits? Well maybe it isn't for everyone, but for a girl who likes to sew and knit and make stuff in general, I was counting on it. So of course, I ended up with the dog that HATES wearing anything other than her own skin : )
Witness the morose looking canine in the camo outfit I knit for her with such happiness and love. Photos of an equally uphappily outfitted pup to follow soon with two dog jackets I sewed a few weeks ago for her. However, given the frigid weather we've had these past few months, I think it's safe to say that upon leaving the apartment she's been willing to reconsider her reservations and might actually be grateful for the added warmth. At least that's what I like to tell myself...

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Sunday brunch with the fam

Had a really nice brunch today with my brother and his wife and their little girl, Orly, who is now about 9 months old. I still feel like she was born yesterday, but she's already onto solid foods and learning how to walk! Here are some quick snapshots of Orly at the restaurant- what a cutie! Look at those cheeks : )

We decided to check out this newish place on our block called Cafe Petisco at 189 East Broadway on the corner of Jefferson. We've been meaning to go here for some time now and since my brother gets up early and this place opens for brunch at 8:30am - a rarity in the LES - it seemed like the perfect day to go. While the dinner and lunch menu is decidedly more eclectic, the general trend is towards a Mediterranean menu. Brunch offers lots of omelet combinations, the standard yogurt and granola, a nice oatmeal loaded with fresh berries and diced apple. I had scrambled eggs served with a chopped tabouli style salad and greek strained yogurt topped with zatar and a dash of olive oil served with a side of pita. It was really lovely, I have to say! I was initially skeptical of the yogurt and egg combo, but it all went together surprisingly well. The cafe has nice a quiet ambiance with soft background music and a family friendly atmosphere. All in all, I think we all agreed we'd come back here. Only downside is the service is pretty slow, but they are very friendly and accommodating, so it makes up for it. There aren't that many options in our neighbourhood that open up before 11am and don't involve a two-hour wait for brunch, so this was a good find.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Work in Progress

I started a project this morning: Chocolate Chocolate Chip Bread from a book called Kneadlessly Simple by Nancy Baggett. It's got a double hit of chocolate first from the cocoa powder and then from a nice number of chocolate chips.

Hmmm, now I really want chocolate but it's all been added to the mix - doh! (sorry, couldn't help myself). After combing the wet and dry ingredients and stirring vigorously together - she wasn't kidding with that instruction! - it looks like this:

See how it's come together more. Now I have to cover it and set it aside for 12 - 18 hours.

I want Yummy Chocolate Bread NOW, but I'll be patient...

Check back in tomorrow am for the update! I'm hoping to serve this for brunch with the fam. We'll see how it goes.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Thursday Thoughts

Quote of the Week:

"The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream"

- Wallace Stevens

Thursday Thoughts

Quote of the week:

"Nothing so aggrevates an earnest person as a passive resistance."

- Herman Melville from'Bartelby the Scrivner', in Putnam's Monthly Magazine

The best new oilcloth fabric!

I was trolling my favorite craft blogs earlier today and saw that Anna Maria Horner - fabric designer extraordinaire, and author of Seams to Me http://http// has just come out with the most gorgeous and totally awesome oilcloth based on her fabric lines. It seems like it's slightly more pliable and less thick than usual oilcloth, which I'm assuming would make it easier to sew projects with such as rain hats and baby bibs - yay!

Check it out - I can't wait to get my paws on some of this!

Thursday Thoughts

Okay, I've been totally lame and absent - I'm so sorry, it's been a very busy time to say the least - but I'm back! My pledge is to try and post something new each week. Starting today, I'm launching "Thursday Thoughts" where I will post one of my favorite quotes, hopefully something to pondor, laugh at, maybe even inspire. I'd love to hear from you if you have a favorite quote you'd be open to sharing.

Quote for the week:
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. - Mark Twain